Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
Chios, Greece
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  • Location: Oxford

The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words

Why a Booktrail?

In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

  • ISBN: 978-1784743864
  • Genre: Historical, Inspired by true events

What you need to know before your trail

Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Travel Guide

BookTrail it to Oxford (University Press)

The first Oxford English Dictionary was created in 1901 –  by men.  There were plenty of woman working there and  one of the woman who works here in the novel wonders how and why they choose the words that go in the dictionary. This is a man’s world and so the language is managed and controlled by men so the dictionary could well avoid or ignore words that would suit or just describe women.  This very concern is the premise for this story.

The place where the dictionary is created is called The Scriptorium

“The Scriptorium felt magical, like everything that ever was and ever could be had been stored within its walls. Books were piled on every surface. Old dictionaries, histories and tales from long ago filled the shelves that separated one desk from another, or created a nook for a chair.”

Words are magic….

“Some words stretched so far back in time that our modern understanding of them was nothing more than an echo of the original, a distortion. I used to think it was the other way around, that the misshapen words of the past were clumsy drafts of what they would become; that the words formed on our tongues, in our time were true and complete. But everything that comes after that first utterance is a corruption.”

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Dictionary of Lost Words

Destination/location: Oxford   Author/guide: Pip Williams Departure Time: 1901

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